Sin and Forgive
By Rabbi Peter Stein
Peter Stein 2016
THIS WEEK’S TORAH portion, Vayikra, details the elaborate animal sacrifices our ancestors offered to God in ancient times. Among the different sacrifices described, the Torah commands the Israelites to bring sin offerings to cleanse themselves of their wrongdoings.
The Torah’s prescription includes different offerings depending on whether the transgressor was an individual, a leader or the entire community. Yet, in each case, the result is the same: after completing the prescribed sacrifice, the penitent receives atonement and is forgiven.
There is one exception: priests. If a priest sinned unwittingly, he was still obliged to bring the prescribed offerings, but did not immediately receive forgiveness for his wrongdoing.
We are commanded in the book of Exodus to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” We learn from Vayikra that to properly fulfill this priestly role, we must be ever vigilant to act with the highest ethical and moral standards. Shabbat Shalom.